Keeping business clients entertained is an essential part of work-related trips to London, and something all professionals must learn how to do at some point in their career. If you're struggling to discover the right way to go about this task while staying in the city, here's a few of our top tips for getting it right...
Have a plan
You don't have to be entirely rigid about your entertaining plans, but it does help to have a basic structure rather than acting on impulse. Clients may appreciate a little spontaneity, but what if the attraction you want to visit is closed, or the restaurant isn't open on the day you're meeting? During your stay at the Montcalm Royal London House, research a few options so you'll be able to adapt quickly if one plan falls through.
Use any existing partnerships
Perhaps your company has already developed a relationship with a London venue, and this will ensure preferential treatment when you are entertaining clients. It always helps to use existing links and business partnerships to beneficial effect, particularly if it helps to eliminate risk.
This doesn't mean your entertaining needs to be stale or traditional – look for ways you can add some extra appeal to the venues you know by speaking directly with management or a relevant member of staff. They may be able to recommend additional attractions or add-ons which will transform what could be a familiar location into an event which is memorable for all the right reasons.
Discover your client's own interests
Incorporating the interests of your business client – and adding them to your entertaining – is a powerful way of building true and lasting connections.
There are many ways to do this, and thanks to modern technology, you can be quite covert in your exploration. Look at the client's LinkedIn profile, take a look at any volunteering they have taken part in, or other professional activities they regularly undertake.
If they contribute to a blog or write articles, check their content for hints as to activities and events they might enjoy while they're in London. Brainstorm a few options which allow you to accommodate this interest when entertaining the client.
Dress for the occasion
Whatever you do, ensure you maintain a professional appearance. Even if you're picking up your clients from a flight and taking them to their accommodation, its important to maintain high standards of presentation throughout your interactions.
Don't feel as though you must be overdressed - a casual meeting such as coffee with a view of London is a more relaxed affair than a meal in a luxurious restaurant – but carefully consider the appropriateness of each outfit you wear.
Remember that while entertaining clients, you'll be judged by your appearance as much as your actions. The ability to maintain high standards will have a big impact on how you're perceived by your professional contacts.
Don't just talk business
There are so many topics you can talk about when entertaining clients, and its sometimes advisable to stay away from business itself. If the client wants to discuss a particular aspect of your work together, then that's great – and a topic which you can pursue further. However, be aware that entertaining clients is more about building relationships than closing a deal, and building those relationships takes a little bit of time.
If the client should wish to chat about a deal or a business project, then its the ideal time to nail your pitch.
Show them the sights
London is a popular place for sightseeing, and there's no reason you can't incorporate this into your client relationships. We recommend trying some of the key landmarks in the city, particularly those which offer an interactive element. This will provide a fun and memorable edge to your business entertaining, without resorting to the same tried and tested locations.
Ask them whether they've visited places like Tower Bridge or the London Eye – both provide stunning views at a unique vantage point, and plenty of time to get to know your client in great surroundings.
Stay off your phone
Don't spend all the time you should be entertaining clients, hooked to your phone. We know it can be tricky to get away from your other commitments, but as much as possible, put your phone aside and focus on the client or clients in front of you.
Remember that you are technically still working, so use the same business etiquette as you would in a more formal setting, and give your (mostly) undivided attention to the clients who you're meeting. Once you get back to your accommodation while making the lost of the latest London city hotel deals, you can respond to any needed correspondence and catch up on any calls you might have missed.
Listen carefully to what your clients are saying, and respond with care. Conversations are a two-way street, and if you're thinking about something else while your client is talking, then you could easily miss some of the crucial nuance and meaning behind their words. This is an important part of the communication process, regardless of whether you're hoping to close a big deal or simply want to get to know your clients in preparation for future projects.
Listening closely is also a great way to lay the groundwork for later meetings, giving you information to instantly recall the next time you encounter them.
Think outside the box
Don't be afraid to be original in your choice of entertainment. London is a city with a huge number of activities to take part in – you simply need to know where to look. If you think its appropriate, consider taking a trip along the Thames in a boat. Alternatively, join a tour with your client and discover more about history, art or local culture. All of these efforts will help both you and the client to feel more relaxed and at ease, ultimately enhancing the trip and increasing the chances of it translating to real business success.